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June 30, 2014

Supreme Court Decision Day - Harris and Hobby Lobby

Whew, what a crazy last few weeks at the Supreme Court. Finishing the term, the Supreme Court has issued decisions in Harris v. Quinn and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, both of which are by J. Alito.

In Harris, the Supreme Court held, in a 5-4 decision by Justice Alito that "partial public employees" like the home healthcare aides here may not be compelled to pay union fees to a union they do not want to support. This is a limited loss for unions, but it does not sweep away prior precedent allowing compelled fees for normal public employees. That will have to wait on another case, oh, like a couple coming up out of California that are now pending at the 9th Cir.

That decision is here (PDF).

In Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court held that "closely held corporations" like the for-profit corporations here cannot be compelled under RFRA to provide contraception coverage in violation of their religious beliefs. This is another narrow, but crucial victory.

That decision is here (PDF).

I'll have more on these decisions in a bit.

Update: Just some notes and some back-patting.

I'm also intensely curious about Justice Alito's reasoning when it came to deciding whether a for-profit business is protected under RFRA. Despite describing the companies as "closely held," he does not appear to use the term prescriptively. That is, the fact that they are closely held here is merely descriptive. His reasoning easily could apply to other corporate forms and he specifically held off ruling that they wouldn't be protected by RFRA merely by the fact they aren't closely held.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 10:21 AM

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